The globalized food economy that we live in today means that it is all too easy to walk in to a grocery store and fill your cart with bananas from Colombia, artichokes from California, and cheese from France. Although shopping this way means that we can have any type of food at any point in the year, it also poses a few difficulties for the environmentally conscious eater.
Most of us have at least some understanding of the many benefits of buying local food; we support our local economy by keeping our spending dollars in the area, we reduce the carbon footprint of our food by reducing the distance it has to travel (and hence the amount of petroleum used to bring the food to our plates), and we increase the traceability of the food, allowing for more transparency about sustainable growing methods, fair treatment of farm workers, and humane treatment of animals.
Local food has one more extremely important benefit: taste. As a rule, local, seasonal food is much tastier, having made its way to your kitchen without weathering multiple days of bumping around in the back of a truck. Case in point: those watery grocery store tomatoes will never compare to the sweet, juicy fruits that are pouring out of the garden this time of year.
Buying local is rarely quite as easy as shopping at the supermarket. Sometimes the region you live in doesn’t produce a lot during the cold winter months. Often local food is more expensive because it hasn’t been grown in industrialized scale operations. However, if the environmental and economic benefits of keeping your food dollars in the local economy don’t cinch the deal for you, remember the difference in taste. There is no question that your food will taste better if it comes from a local, preferably sustainably grown, source.
What does this have to do with cheese? Although cheesemaking is essentially a method of preserving milk, cheese is a delicate substance. Long travel is hard on your cheese, and the flavor will often show exactly how far that cheese has traveled. Coupled with the high energy costs of shipping a food like cheese that needs refrigeration, choosing local cheese for everyday eating just makes sense. Don’t get me wrong, I still spring for an imported piece of something delectable from time to time…but for every day cheese eating, why not explore the cheeses made near you? Your taste buds, and the atmosphere, will thank you.